Hatters record another pre-season victoryBarnet 0
Cullen 45, Howells 80 (pen)
The Town recorded another pre-season victory with a 2-0 victory at Conference side Barnet.
The Hatters led at the break thanks to Mark Cullen’s fine finish just moments before the half-time whistle and a series of fine saves from goalkeeper Mark Tyler.
It could have 2-0 to the Town 15 minutes into the second half only for Alex Wall to strike his penalty against the crossbar.
But the home side weren’t so lucky with 10 minutes left when Jake Howells did convert from 12 yards for the Town after Shaun Whalley was fouled in the 18-yard box.
The hosts had the first chance of the game when Tyler did well to leap out to his left to keep out Luisma Villa’s shot from 20 yards on four minutes.
Barnet were enjoying more of the ball than the Hatters in the opening stages, and after Mauro Vilhete had skied a decent opportunity on eight minutes, the Bees thought they should have had a penalty on 14 minutes when Stephen McNulty eased striker Jon Akinde off the ball. The forward went down in the box but referee Woolmer was unconvinced and waved play-on.
The Town were struggling to find their rhythm in the attacking third of the pitch but Alex Wall’s shot on 16 minutes was blocked. Wall – who scored a hat-trick against Hitchin on Thursday – then saw another effort charged down by the home defence on the half-hour.
Since his first save in the game, Tyler had remained largely untroubled in the first period, but that all changed on 34 minutes when the Town number one firstly kept his eye on a daisycutter from Luke Gamblin before pulling off a tremendous reaction save a minute later to keep out Mauro Vilhere’s header from point-blank range.
Back came the Town, and Cullen came close to breaking the deadlock at the other end when he poked a shot into the gloves of home keeper Graham Stack on 38 minutes.
Following that near miss it looked as though both sides would go in at the interval goalless but the Town had other ideas when they nosed in front on the stroke of half-time. Pelly Ruddock seized on a stray Barnet pass to thread a ball into the path of the onside Cullen and the Hatters striker raced through unchallenged to steer an assured finish past Stack.
The Town made one change at half-time, introducing Luke Wilkinson for McNulty, but in a low key beginning to the second period it wasn’t until 10 minutes after the restart that Tyler was tested when he hung onto another shot by Villa.
However, the Hatters spurned a great chance to double their shortly before the hour mark when Wall missed a penalty. Wall, Cullen and Ruddock combined well down the left which saw the latter burst into the box. He was upended by Bees defender Bondz N’Gala but from the resultant spot-kick Wall smashed his effort against the crossbar.
Cullen came mighty close to scoring his second of the afternoon when meeting Andy Drury’s right-wing corner on 69 minutes – his header dropping inches wide of the post.
The Town then made six changes with 20 minutes to go, and within a minute of coming on Jim Stevenson tested Barnet’s substitute keeper Sam Cowler with his first-time shot following a great pass from Cullen.
The Hatters had controlled large parts of the second period though, and they made their superiority count with 10 minutes left when substitute Howells converted a penalty after Whalley had been fouled in the box when attempting to meet Cullen’s left-wing cross.
It was almost 3-0 on 82 minutes when Scott Griffiths saw his header from Whalley’s left-wing cross cleared off the line, and that was the final chance as the Town ran out comfortable winners in the end.
Town: Tyler; Connolly, Griffiths, Lacey (sub Franks 70), McNulty (sub Wilkinson 46); Ruddock (sub Robinson 70), Drury (sub Howells 70), Lawless (sub Lafayette 70), Rooney (sub Whalley 70); Cullen (sub Drury 85), Wall (sub Stevenson 70).
Subs not used: Justham.
Attendance: 806, including approximately 200 backing the Hatters.